Whereas rising up in western Kansas, Jayne Henson was surrounded by agriculture. Her father was a county extension agent and her uncle ran a traditional farm. She raised animals along with her sisters to point out at native 4-H gala’s and discovered methods to drive a tractor earlier than ever sitting within the entrance seat of a automobile. “I didn’t necessarily grow up on a farm, but it was always around me,” she says.
However Henson by no means anticipated it might sooner or later lead her down a path to discovering herself, or to her future overseeing TransGenerational Farm within the Hudson Valley.
When she went to school, Henson selected to comply with her ardour for enjoying the drums and studied music remedy. Throughout her sophomore 12 months, her uncle died and the household took over his farm. Henson stepped as much as assist develop typical corn, wheat, soybeans and beef cattle on the 50-acre farm. And whereas she excelled in her duties, she struggled with emotions of gender dysphoria and quickly started to come back to phrases along with her identification as a trans lady.
“When I finally made the decision to transition, Kansas didn’t feel like a place where a person like me had a future,” she says. “I didn’t see anybody like me reflected in the landscape. There was plenty of messaging—both spoken and unspoken—to let me know that rural life in Kansas wasn’t a place for a trans woman, for someone like me.”
She made the tough resolution to depart Kansas and took a job working in HIV counseling and testing for AmeriCorps in New York Metropolis. There, she was uncovered to GrowNYC, a company devoted to regional agriculture and making certain a unbroken provide of contemporary native produce for New Yorkers. Henson began working in its Contemporary Meals Field program and enrolled in GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings program, which concerned agricultural workshops developed to assist aspiring farmers succeed. “That reignited an interest for me in agriculture, seeing the ways in which food access and community organizing can have a social justice impact and how much those things are at the root of so many injustices around us,” she says.
Seven years after shifting to New York, Henson got here to phrases with one other facet of her identification. “I’ll always be grateful for what I learned in the city. I was able to find our community and…find space where me being trans wasn’t an issue,” she says. “But I’m really not a city girl.”
With a reinvigorated ardour for farming and a imaginative and prescient for a future that concerned queer folks rising meals with and for one another, Henson utilized for a pro-farmer program by means of the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, a nonprofit primarily based in Hurley, New York working to construct an equitable and ecologically resilient meals system within the Hudson Valley. Via this system, Henson managed SustainAbility Farm, the place she labored with autistic adults and oversaw rising operations for a greenhouse and an acre-sized plot in alternate for housing.
A number of the challenges queer and minority farmers face contain funding and land acquisition. Whereas Henson isn’t a first-generation farmer, leaving her household’s farm in Kansas has meant she’s needed to pave her personal path and discover land elsewhere to domesticate. And with the inflow of individuals shifting to the Hudson Valley in recent times, that’s a pricey endeavor—particularly for the reason that pandemic has triggered bidding wars and an inflow of outsiders shopping for up any accessible land. “Capital is always a struggle,” says Henson.
In 2019, Henson based TransGenerational Farm, the place she employs regenerative practices. In partnership with Arrowood Farms—a brewery, taproom and outside venue—she grows her personal greens for a small CSA program and oversees Arrowood’s hop yards. She initially supposed to promote most of her produce in New York Metropolis’s Union Sq. farmers’ market, however pulled again on that concept when COVID-19 struck the area final 12 months. As a substitute, she’s shifted to an all-CSA mannequin.
This summer time, Henson is worked up to get again to in-person neighborhood constructing by internet hosting planting and meals occasions. “A big thing with queer and trans folks is this notion of found family and chosen family,” says Henson. Whereas TransGenerational Farms remains to be a small operation, she’s working to construct an area the place nobody is excluded primarily based on their gender identification, sexuality, race, class or bodily means.
“I like to think of the farm as more than just myself,” says Henson, who hopes to see extra folks like her mirrored in farming on each native and nationwide ranges. “Queer and trans people can and do farm.”